La Tomatina is a giant tomato fight that’s held every year in Buñol, Spain, on the last Wednesday of August. There’s celebrations all week, but most people go just to throw tomatoes at each other, and this year we joined in the fun.
We had a great time, but as always we learned a fair bit about what we could have done better.
What we did right
Although the fight starts at 11am, you can’t get there at 10am and hope to be part of the action. The smart people are in the main square at 8am – we didn’t make it that early but we were there by nine.
Didn’t prepare too much but knew where we were going
We travelled by train, and we knew that the train we wanted left from San Isidre station and not from Valencia Nord, the main station in the centre of town. The night before, we worked out how to get to that station (by metro) and we got there as soon as we could. We’d tried to find out about train times, but couldn’t – which didn’t matter anyway, since there was a crowd waiting at the station and everyone just had to wait until the next train, whenever it might be.
In Buñol, we followed the crowd to the main square, but we knew we wanted to be in sight of the ham, so we squirmed through until we could see it. We had a great spot which ensured we were part of the action.
Wore sensible (and disposable) clothing
Despite the fact that one of the few rules of La Tomatina is “don’t rip t-shirts” a lot of people lost the shirts off their backs. We wore shirts that we wouldn’t mind losing – in fact Linda’s was one wear away from the bin in any case, so she threw it out afterwards.
Linda wore shorts with a zip pocket for a credit card, train ticket and a bit of cash, and bought a pair of cheap sunglasses instead of wearing her hat. Craig wore swimming trunks with a deep pocket.
We both wore sneakers instead of flip flops. This was definitley a good idea, we saw hundreds of flip flops floating on the tide of tomato, and many people were shoeless at the end of the event. Washing our shoes wasn’t fun, but it was better than losing them.
Didn’t take too much
We didn’t take a bag with us. There just isn’t room in a crowd like that, and it would likely have been stolen. We took a cheap camera which we tried to waterproof, and a video camera that now needs a bit of love.
We also took a plastic bag with some croissants in it, but we bought water when we arrived. There was plenty of food available, but we enjoyed having our croissants on the train.
Were in a good mood
Being in a good frame of mind is essential to enjoy La Tomatina. Some people were angry about being pushed around or having wine poured on their heads, others panicked when the crowd were too dense. We tried to relax and enjoy ourselves (and practise deep breathing occasionally) and left with a positive view of things.
What we did wrong
Weren’t waterproofed enough
Since we didn’t decide until the night before that we were going to go to La Tomatina, we didn’t have the equipment to waterproof our cameras, and we had to take our cameras! We scrounged around and found a couple of ziplock bags, but they both ripped during the event, so our things got tomatoed.
Linda took her wallet, so everything made of paper was ruined – better just to put a credit card, 20 euros and a driver’s license in a plastic bag and zip it into your pocket.
Didn’t have goggles
Linda bought a pair of cheap sunglasses, which were good for the sun but no defence against tomato juice, and Craig was wearing his real glasses which mercifully weren’t ruined. You could buy cheap goggles on the road down to the event, and it’s definitely a good idea to do so if you like your eyes.
This is marginal – we wanted to take our cameras to record the event, but they both got damaged. Maybe just better waterproofing was in order.
Didn’t book our tickets out of Valencia
We didn’t realise our next big mistake until the next day. Since we’ve been travelling by Eurail, we’ve gotten used to just showing up at the train station half an hour before the train we want to catch and getting on it. But thousands of backpackers were trying to leave Valencia, and all the trains to Barcelona require a seat reservation. Craig managed to score us the last seats on a train at 4pm (three hours after our planned departure) and it was the most expensive seat reservation we’ve paid. But at least we made it out!
La Tomatina was an awesome experience, but if you want to get the most out of it you need to be prepared. We were prepared in some instances, which meant we had a fantastic time, but weren’t prepared in others, which meant we spent more money than we needed to.